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The Best & Worst Games of 2017

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The Best & Worst of 2016 / 2015 / 2014 / 2013 / 2012 / 2011 / 2010

I thought 2017 was a pretty good year for video games, despite the fact that I didn't play the majority of the GOTY frontrunners.

I didn't play Persona 5, because one hundred hours is too much to ask. I never got to Nier Automata, for similar reasons. I didn’t play PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, because I don’t have a gaming PC, and it appears to be broken on Xbox One. I’m not quite sure why, but Horizon Zero Dawn never appealed, so I gave that a miss. It's only in the last week or so that I started playing Zelda and Mario on my brand new Switch, though they've certainly made an impression in that short time.

What I did play was a mix of old and new. I out-squatted a man for a wig, assassinated a herd of hippos, took a road trip with a crew of hair models, gunned down space fish, saved the humans, remembered how to parry, romanced a skeleton, descended into Viking hell, possessed a Moai, got i…

Video Game Twit-chatting

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We've just moved into a new house. It's lovely and has lots of space, which makes it somewhat of a rarity this close to Tokyo, at least on our budget. I can finally unpack my games from the shipping boxes they've been hiding in the last eighteen months, and stop living out of suitcases. The only catch is that we are going to be internet-less for the next month or two. Apparently the people who lived here before us were Luddites, or were just stealing someone else's wifi, so there is no existing infrastructure for high speed internet.

So we're limited to mobile data until at least the New Year, with which I can do very little. No streaming services, no downloading games and no playing online.

Twitter still works though, so I'm going to work with what I've got.

I've searched "video games" on Twitter, and used the results as inspiration for some ramblings. What could go wrong?

"Do violent video games make people more violent in real life?&…

A Thing - The Sega Saturn Infrared Control Pad

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Sometimes I'll write about a single object. Something big, or something small. Something significant, or something insignificant. Something I own, something video games. A video game thing.

You can never have enough Saturn pads. For all of its faults, real and imagined, Sega's 32-bit machine had some great controllers. The much-aped Saturn pad was sleek yet substantial. The Nights 3D pad was ahead of its time, just like many of the Saturn's features. You could wield the Saturn light gun without looking like a knob, the steering wheel looked cool, the bog standard joystick was excellent and there were countless OTT, game-specific peripherals, such at the Virtual On sticks and the thingamabob that came bundled with Space Harrier.

I own lots of Saturn controllers. More than I have hands (2), or friends (2). This week I added another to my collection, the Infrared Control Pad, or the Cordless Pad as it's known here in Japan. A cordless pad from an era of too many wires.

Wh…

Nintendo Switch - Arguing With Myself

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I almost bought a Switch last week. Amazon had both the grey version and the Mario Odyssey bundle in-stock, and only ¥1000 above SRP. I decided to mull it over and waited for the following morning, by which time my interest had subsided and both versions had increased in price by 25%. Fuck that, then.

History suggests that I'll eventually end up with a Switch. Back in 2012, I was agonising over pre-ordering a PS Vita. I eventually went for it, and I'm happy that I did. Two years later, I was unsure about picking up a discounted Wii U. Predictably, I ended up with one. I didn't particularly enjoy my Wii U, but without it I wouldn't have played two hundred hours of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate with my wife, so it wasn't all bad. This time last year, I was umming and ahhing about the Xbox One. I eventually bought one, which is a decision that I deeply regret.

Anyone want to swap an Xbox One for a Switch?

If Switches were easier to find here in Japan, I'd probably al…

Game Fright

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Japan has gone Halloween mad over the last few years. Shelves are stacked with gruesome tat and cute pumpkins, and thousands of fancy-dressed youths pack into Shibuya on Halloween weekend. We’re not yet at trick-or-treat levels of stupidity, but we may only be a few years away. It’s a fucking nightmare.

To celebrate my favourite seasonal event, I thought I’d share some video game related scares. Because I like video games and have played lots of them.

The First Dead Space

Video games aren’t scary. If someone tells you otherwise, then they are either a big baby or a liar. Interactive media should excel at making you jump, yet the best horror games don’t come close to matching movies for shocks and scares.

I can only think of one exception, and that’s Dead Space. I felt genuine dread each time I rounded a blind corner, opened a door to an unexplored room or found myself stranded in an unlit space. I felt uncomfortable throughout, thanks to the eerie sound design, the derelict setting, I…

Jumping Back into the Animus

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I was fascinated by history long before I was into video games. As a child, I’d daydream about knights and castles, and spend hours flicking through my Weetabix Illustrated Book of British History. For years, I thought Henry VIII was a crispy, breakfast biscuit.

As a teenager, I read wacky theories about precursor races and dense tomes on the ancient world. I pored over epics like Gilgamesh and the Iliad, and read widely on the campaigns of Alexander the Great. I studied Modern History at university, in part because it was the cover-all-your-bases subject for students undecided on their future profession, but also because I was still fascinated by the past.

History and games don’t mix as well or as often as I’d like. Historical periods are well covered in the RTS genre, but outside of that it’s slim pickings. Alternate histories are popular, though the actual setting is rarely of any great consequence, and the FPS has an on/off relationship with WW2 and other semi-modern periods wit…

Color me Interested

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One hundred and eight yen.

One hundred and eight yen for Final Fantasy IV. A cart and a plastic sleeve, but no box, found in a junk crate at my local Book Off. One hundred and eight yen for Final Fantasy IV on the WonderSwan Color. 
Bandai’s WonderSwan was a Japan-only, handheld console. Released in 1999, it was designed by Gunpei Yokoi, the man behind Nintendo’s Game Boy. Tragically, it would be his final, major contribution to the industry, as he was killed in a traffic accident in 1997.

The original, monochromatic model was replaced by the WonderSwan Color within two years of release, and finally the SwanCrystal in 2002. 
Bandai’s 16-bit handheld hung with the competition at first, thanks to its low price point, long battery life – up to 40 hours on a single AA battery – and initial support from some of the biggest third-party publishers, including Squaresoft. Ultimately, however, the competition was too strong. The Game Boy Advance claimed an overwhelming share of the market and …

TGS 2017: Code Vein Hands-on

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This is the last of my Tokyo Game Show 2017 posts. You can find the rest here:
Preview
Roundup TGS in Pictures Metal Gear Survive Hands-on Dragon Ball Fighterz Hands-on Monster Hunter World Hands-on Yakuza Kiwami 2 Hands-on
I originally posted this preview at Critical Gamer
It has been dubbed “Anime Dark Souls”. A lazy categorisation, but it’s easy to see how the comparison might arise. Code Vein is an unforgiving action role-playing game, where you will die over and over again, fight infinitely respawning enemies and be expected to learn the intricacies of combat if you want to succeed. You’ll also swear a lot and perhaps throw a controller or two. Sound familiar?

According to the press blurb, Code Vein is set in a post-apocalyptic dystopia, where the consumption of blood grants power. Exploration is key, and the full game will be open-world, though just how open remains to be seen. The Tokyo Game Show demo was set in a dark cavern - dark, but lit well enough to avoid excessive fumbling. I…

TGS 2017: Yakuza Kiwami 2 Hands-on

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I originally posted this preview at Critical Gamer
Tokyo Game Show and the Yakuza series go together like wine and cheese, Sonic and Tails, Nintendo and needlessly complicated voice chat functionality. Going back to the days of Yakuza 3, the series has had a major presence at the show and has dominated Sega’s booth almost every year since. It’s just not TGS if there isn’t a new Yakuza to play.

Yakuza Online and Hokuto ga Gotoku, a Fist of the North Star game with a Yakuza twist, were both present but not playable this year. Yakuza Kiwami 2, however, was playable across two different scenarios. A remake of Yakuza 2, with many added features, it was available at both Sega and Sony’s booths.

The demo was lifted from Chapter 2 of the full game, and contained two different scenarios. The first followed series protagonist Kazuma Kiryu in Osaka, as he visited Sotenbori, a fictionalised version of the Dotonbori district in Japan’s second city. The other scenario starred the sometimes antagon…

TGS 2017: Monster Hunter World Hands-on

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I originally posted this preview at Critical Gamer
When the doors opened on day one of Tokyo Game Show, I ran straight for the Capcom booth and the Monster Hunter World demo. It had been a last minute decision, but it turned out to be a good one. It was perhaps the most in-demand demo of this year’s show, and I was able to try it twice, in both multi and single player.

I’m a lapsed monster hunter. I briefly dabbled in the PSP games, played about two hundred hours of 3 Ultimate and continued for another fifty in 4 Ultimate before I lost interest. I was happy to hear that the series is returning to Sony, and more specifically home consoles, but I hadn’t paid much attention to the details. Monster Hunter had largely passed me by, but if the TGS demo is anything to go by, then I’ll be back on board from here on out.

The demo featured three quests: easy, moderate and hard. Each one focussed on a single monster, though other creatures could be found wandering the map in each scenario. The …

TGS 2017: Dragon Ball FighterZ Hands-on

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I am a fighting game ignoramus. I don’t watch Evo, I don’t have a favourite Street Fighter character, and I don’t know if it’s pronounced “Blaze Blue” or “Blaz Blue”. I was convinced for many years that Dead or Alive was a volleyball game; I think that Mortal Kombat is for knobs and can’t imagine anything worse than having to play Smash Brothers. My mother-in-law once beat me at Street Fighter V.

I have minimal interest in fighting games, yet my 10 minutes with Dragon Ball FighterZ might’ve been the most fun I had at this year’s Tokyo Game Show. And I’m going to try to explain why, without using any fighting game parlance or researching any of the details about Bandai Namco’s latest brawler. This is me trying to share the reasons why I was so impressed by Dragon Ball Fighterz, without the aid of Google, Wikipedia, a press kit or spell check. Apologies in advance.

You start by choosing three characters from a roster of familiar faces. Goku, the other Goku, the guy who looks a bit like…

TGS 2017 in Pictures

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Tokyo Game Show is well and truly over. I have returned to reality, a reality where I don't get to play new games for two solid days, bump into industry luminaries, drink on a school night, talk about games with strangers or buy a Sega Saturn phone case without fear of reprisal.

All I have left to remember TGS by is a Monster Hunter World Towel and a massive bag with Kazuma Kiryu on it. Well, those things and a folder full of badly lit photos of booths, people playing games, and me standing next to signs.


Bethesda's Psycho Break 2 was everywhere at this year's show. The front of the main exhibition hall was plastered with huge posters for Shinji Mikami's sequel. Known as The Evil Within 2 in the West, it was playable at Square Enix' booth, as they have a partnership with Bethesda in Japan. The line was consistently long, so I didn't get to try it, but then it's out next month anyway.


The picture that received 200 Likes and 50 RTs on Twitter. That's a y…

TGS 2017: Metal Gear Survive Hands-on

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Konami has received a fair bit of flak since their very public separation from well-loved movie critic Hideo Kojima. Everyone decided that Konami was evil and that anything they did from there on out would be bollocks. The prospect of them continuing the Metal Gear series without Kojima was blasphemy.

It’s fair to say that Metal Gear Survive has been up against it since the outset. The internet was outraged, there was uproar on social media, morons committed to boycotts, and there were snarky comments and pissy previews from people who should know better. Don’t get me wrong, I’d much rather see the franchise continue in the capable hands of its creator, but I’m also not going to dismiss Survive out of hand. It’s based on the MGS V engine and gameplay, both of which were near flawless, and the development team is stacked with series veterans. That’s a pretty good foundation, I reckon.

I went into the Tokyo Game Show demo with an open mind, and found a game that was solid but far from s…

TGS 2017: Roundup

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My Tokyo Game Show is finished, as are my feet. Two days of games, socialising, drinking and standing in queues was two days well spent.

Video games are lovely, aren’t they?

It was a hectic 48 hours and I’m looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep tonight, before I tackle a few previews tomorrow. The show floor was busy and there was a good mix of games, though it was missing a big, dominating attraction, like VR last year.

I originally intended to post a Day One round-up last night, but I accidentally attended a two hour, all-you-can-drink session, and then went to a post-TGS party where I continued to drink myself silly. By the time I got back home, I was in no fit state to blog. So instead, I’ve put everything together here for your perusal.

I’ll be posting a photo blog and some tasty previews over the next week, so keep an eye out for those.


The Games

There weren’t many games that I needed to play this year. As the doors opened on Day One, I wasn’t even sure which demo to run fo…